Cost of living crisis: How to save money in Northern Ireland this Winter despite rising fuel costs and inflation
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According to a University of York study, 76.3% of families in Northern Ireland will be battling to make ends meet by January 2023.
The News Letter approached six experts or agencies to seek the best possible advice for householders to weather the storm of surging food and fuel costs this winter.
Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland:
"I am hearing about older people who are afraid to turn on their fridges, have empty cupboards and cannot afford to cook a hot meal,” he said.
“Soaring energy costs are pushing older people into poverty and it’s more important than ever that they make sure they are receiving all the support they are entitled to.
"Every year, millions of pounds in benefits goes unclaimed by older people in Northern Ireland and I would urge anyone who hasn’t already to Make the Call to ensure you’re getting all the benefits, services and support you’re entitled to. You can do this by calling 0800 232 1271.
"It is also vital that we receive clarity on when the £400 energy payment and £100 oil payment will be delivered, to allow older people to factor this into their budgets over the winter months.”
The Housing Executive for Northern Ireland:
“Our team of Financial Inclusion Officers provide advice, guidance and a signposting service to any tenant finding themselves in financial difficulty," it told the News Letter.
“Referrals are usually made via our Patch Managers and since January 2020, over 5,000 tenants have received support – around 200 a week, on average.
“Already, almost £1.5m in additional annual benefit entitlement has been secured for our tenants via this process.
“As Northern Ireland’s Home Energy Conservation Authority, we also operate the Energy Advice Service and those seeking assistance can contact us on 0800 111.”
The Housing Executive also facilitates Oil Buying Clubs across Northern Ireland and members benefit from cost savings via the bulk buying and delivery of home heating oil.
“These clubs are open for membership and interested tenants can join by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 111 4455
“We also offer support to low income households who may be experiencing fuel poverty via the Affordable Warmth programme.
“Further information on all these initiatives are available on our website at www.nihe.gov.uk.”
Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy at Advice NI:
“Maximise your income,” he said. “This could range from checking to see if extra hours are available in work to checking social security entitlement.
“Review your expenditure: This could range from prioritising bills, to renegotiating repayments, to reducing spending on non-essential items and cutting energy bills at home.
“Crisis support: This could be for food or other essential items from local community organisations or from energy company emergency funds.
“Seek independent advice from your local independent advice provider or via the Advice NI on 0800 915 4604 or www.adviceni.net.”
Peter McClenaghan, Director of Infrastructure and Sustainability at the Consumer Council:
“If you can, and are not doing so already, the Consumer Council encourage you to try to reduce the energy you are using by adopting energy efficiency measures,” he said.
“This is particularly important because the Energy Price Guarantee is not a cap. When the Energy Price Guarantee is implemented, it will be a discount applied to price you pay for a unit of energy; meaning consumers could still face bills over £2,500 if they use a lot of energy.
This is important, he said, because the government's Energy Price Guarantee doesn't cap energy bills but only offers a discount on the cost per unit.
"We urge anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or to top-up their meters to contact their supplier for support without delay," he said.
"We also remind people to provide meter readings to avoid receiving estimated bills, and to check they are on the best tariff and payment method for their needs by using our free online Energy Price Comparison Tool."
He also provided links to some short videos on saving energy;- www.consumercouncil.org.uk/energyvideos
Contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022
Paul Livingstone, Christians Against Poverty Partnership Manager for NI:
“Prepare a realistic budget, showing all your income and outgoings and keep to it,” he said. “Review and update it regularly.
“When shopping, pre-plan your week’s meals, write a list to get what you need and stick to it.
“Contact your energy company if you have any concerns - they have a responsibility to offer extra help and advice.
“Make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to;- www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators
“Visit free Warm Welcome Hubs in your community;- www.warmwelcome.uk ”.
CAP can be contacted on 0800 328 0006 or see www.capuk.org
Guidance from National Energy Action (NI):
It suggests making savings by carefully managing a range of household applicances;-
:: £55 per year just by turning off appliances and not leaving many of them on standby, for example TV, laptops and mobile phones.
:: £65 by using a clothesline instead of a tumble dryer.
:: £80-100 by turning your room thermostat down by one degree.
:: £9 per person by spending one minute less in the shower each day.
:: £12 by only boiling the water you need.
:: £15 by washing clothes at 30°C and 1 less cycle per week.
:: £45 with 80mm insulation of your hot water cylinder.
:: £35 - £300 with 270mm loft insulation.
:: £20 per year by turning off lights not in use.
:: £4-13 per year per bulb by switching to LED bulbs.
:: Only run the dishwasher when full. One less run per week could save £15.
:: £40 per year by draught proofing windows and doors.
:: £20 with a chimney draught excluder.